According to industry research, the enterprise mobile app market is expected to grow to $63 billion by 2020. In 2016, the average number of apps created by businesses was 11 – a staggering 126 per cent increase on the previous year. Right now, it seems like apps are where websites were a couple of decades ago – a ‘must-have’ for all businesses wishing to remain relevant. If you’re a business decision-maker, you’re probably thinking your organisation needs a mobile app, or perhaps another mobile app.

But, step back. The fact that everyone else seems to have a mobile app doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for your business right now. And while ‘FOMO’ is perfectly understandable in today’s world of fast-moving technology, the decision to develop an app (just like any other investment) needs to be linked back to specific business objectives.

Over the last 10 years we have worked with many of Australia’s best-known brands as well as start-ups. And we’ve learnt a thing or two! Here are some insights about the world of mobile app development and some tips on mobile app investment.

Why do businesses want to develop apps?

There are four main reasons companies want to create their own apps.

  • FOMO. No organisation wants to look as if it’s being left behind. At the very least businesses want to be perceived as forward-looking. This may be a valid reason to create an app, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for your particular business.
  • Marketing opportunities. Having a presence in the app store means there’s yet another place where prospective customers can find your brand, and if your competitors are already there this reason is all the more compelling.
  • Increased reach. An app can provide a new, and usually improved, way for consumers to access and engage with the business.
  • Convenience. An app offers value-add facilities, such as integration with camera, tap to pay, and location, something you can’t get out of a simple mobile responsive website. This can create a deeper engagement with the consumer.

What sort of apps are there and how are they different?

Generally speaking, there are two main groups of apps. The first main group is targeted at consumers, for the reasons just outlined: FOMO, marketing opportunities, increased reach and convenience. These are known as consumer facing apps.

The first wave of consumer facing apps used to be all about the brand and were more like an extension of the company website. The next generation was about consumption of data and light-weight interactions with the company’s marketing efforts, for example ‘shake the app to win a daily prize’. Now consumer apps are much more functional, created around two-way (often live) interactions: think Uber or Google Pay.

The second group of apps – known as enterprise, internal or line of business (LOB) apps – aim to connect the business with its workforce, suppliers, clients and other third parties.

Enterprise apps improve workforce and supply chain efficiency and productivity. They give users access to the systems or data they need, without having to sift through the company intranet. We see these apps as ‘the last mile’ of digital transformation, decluttering your cloud-based data set to give your teams the information they need, at their fingertips.

So, does your business need an app?

Not all businesses who think they need an app actually need one. As their digital strategy partner, if we think the business case doesn’t quite stack up just yet, we will steer our customers toward alternative solutions. Here are some examples.

  • A recruitment consultant wanted an app as a means of sharing insights, updates and tools with her customer and talent base. But the information she wanted to share with her customers was static. She had no current need to track users, or for a live, real-time data exchange. A well-designed, mobile responsive website was all she needed at this stage of her business’s development.
  • A real estate start-up wanted an app to provide advice to property owners, renters or buyers and to enable better communication between these groups. But some of the concepts still needed refining and the return on the investment in the app was still unclear. Upon review, a chat bot was the better solution – it was more cost-effective and contained all the features the business needed today. Down the track, when the business is ready, and with the proof-of-concepts completed, the chat bot can be incorporated into the app

The above two examples illustrate the power of a well-designed mobile responsive website with smart tools such as chat bots. These additional options can of course make decision making all the more difficult. As rule of thumb however, if you need to achieve any of the following, a mobile app may be the way to go:

  • Access to the user’s location
  • Access to their camera or microphone
  • A tailored consumer experience depending on whether the phone is horizontal or vertical (for example, on a compass app)
  • An Augmented Reality or a Visual Reality experience
  • Access to Bluetooth
  • Push notifications
  • Access to Contacts, Calendar or other phone data

Is app creation right for you? Some things to consider

The decision to invest in any new platform – whether it’s an app or an alternative digital solution – comes down to your business objectives. Are you clear on the problem you are trying to solve and the desired outcomes? How will you know if you’ve been successful? More specifically, you need to be able to answer the following:

  • Marketing. Consider the cost of building an app versus the expected business benefit. Does the ROI make sense?
  • Revenue. Will online ordering increase revenue intake? Or will it cannibalise revenue from existing channels?
  • Cost-cutting and efficiency gains. Will the cost of building the app deliver the productivity and efficiencies gains you hope for?
  • Workforce. Will the app really make your people’s lives easier? How will you measure this?

Need someone to help challenge and guide you thinking?

Think you might need to create an app? Get in touch with Built to Roam. We will sanity-test your approach and guide you to a solution that supports your business objectives. Whether it is a mobile app or not, we’ll embrace that challenge with the same sense of excitement and enthusiasm that you no doubt have. Give us a call!